Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Images of Relatedness: Patterning and Cultural Contexts in Yanyuwa Rock Art, Sir Edward Pellew Islands, SW Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Australia

Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Images of Relatedness: Patterning and Cultural Contexts in Yanyuwa Rock Art, Sir Edward Pellew Islands, SW Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Australia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Northern Australia is home to some of the most well-known and recognised rock art regions in the world (e.g. the Kimberley, Kakadu National Park/western Arnhem Land, southeast Cape York Peninsula, and the Torres Strait islands). Over the last several decades this area has produced a wealth of archaeological and ethnographic information about rock art including the establishment of regional chronological frameworks (e.g. Chaloupka 1993; Cole et al. 1995; Chippindale and Taçon 1998; David and Chant 1995), rock art regionalisation (e.g. David and Lourandos 1998; Taçon 1993), identification and symbolism of specific motifs (e.g. Arndt 1962; Crawford 1968; Mulvaney 1992; Taçon 1989), links between myths, motifs and landscape (Capell 1972; Elkin 1952: 249; Flood 2004: 189-191), and more recently the discovery of the oldest dated pigment art on the continent (David et al. 2013). However, there are many other rock art regions across northern Australia that have yet to form the focus of in-depth investigation. One of these is the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region located on the vast low-lying Carpentaria plain stretching from the Northern Territory/Queensland border in the east to the Roper River in the west (Fig. 1). As the first major paper to focus on the rich rock art record from this area, we present the preliminary results from the systematic recording and analysis of motifs and sites from a collaborative project involving the Yanyuwa Aboriginal community.

The Yanyuwa Rock Art Project (YRAP) had its origins in a 2005 conversation involving anthropologists J oh n Bra dl ey and A m an da K earn ey, Yanyuwa ngimirringki (the 'owners' of specific areas of land and sea and their associated Dreamings1) and jungkayi (the 'guardians' or 'bosses' for country and associated Dreamings; responsible for looking after the country and its sacred places)2, and the li?Anthawirriyarra Sea Rangers - an organisation responsible for natural and cultural resource management in Yanyuwa country. The conversation concerned the Yanyuwa's desire to have the rock art sites from their traditional sea country - the Sir Edward Pellew Islands - properly recorded and to have that knowledge (archaeological and ethnographic) available to the broader Yanyuwa community. In addition, concerns regarding the deterioration of known rock art sites on several islands and the Yanyuwa's desire to learn more about the nature of these places using archaeological techniques (e.g. antiquity of the art and occupation of the rockshelters where the art is found) resulted in the need for a comprehensive, community-driven partnership recording project to be developed (see e.g. Brady 2009; David et al. 2004 for similar examples of collaborative rock art recording projects). In this paper the results from the first recording season (2010) of the YRAP (at South West Island, Black Craggy Island, Watson Island) are presented and analysed using a combination of formal and informed methods (Taçon and Chippindale 1998). First, a stylistic analysis is undertaken to search for motif variability and landscape patterning in the three islands surveyed; and secondly, the cultural contexts of Yanyuwa interpretations and statements concerning one distinctive motif and two small-scale patterns observed are examined to better understand how Yanyuwa people understand the place of rock art on their country (see e.g. Layton 1985; Merlan 1989 for similar approaches) (we use the words 'cultural' and 'cultural context' in their broadest possible sense as people's activities in their environment and the way they interpret their place in that environment; for Yanyuwa people rock art is seen as Law embedded in complex social relationships). By focusing on motifs as 'images of relatedness' (Bradley and Yanyuwa Families 2007) that are embedded in epistemological understandings of rock art, this paper contributes valuable insights in the complexities associated with how archaeologists might interpret patterning in the ro ck ar t record. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.